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Rugby: Tsang out as Hong Kong confirms Asian Games squad

Youngster Cado Lee Ka-to is among Hong Kong’s 12-man squad for the Asian Games. Photo: HKRFU.

Youngster Cado Lee Ka-to is among Hong Kong’s 12-man rugby sevens squad for the Asian Games. Photo: HKRFU.

September 24, 2014: Sevens veteran Tsang Hing-hung, a part-time athlete at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, has been withdrawn from the Hong Kong squad for the 17th Asian Games after failing to fully recover from shoulder injury.


The remaining 12 from the provisional 13-man squad – including recalled Keith Robertson and Mark Wright – will travel on Monday to Incheon, where the competition will be held from September 30-October 2 at the new purpose-built Namdong Asiad Rugby Ground.


The Hong Kong squad features six veterans from 2010 – Robertson, Wright, Kwok Ka-chun, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Rowan Varty and captain Jamie Hood, while brothers Alex and Tom McQueen have since become eligible.


Max Woodward joined last year, youngsters Jack Capon and Michael Coverdale made their senior debuts this year, while Cado Lee Ka-to, another youngster, has also been named after successfully returning from injury. However, Dai Rees, the Head of Technical Development and Performance at the HKRFU, said his heart went out to the man who missed the final cut.


“Hing-hung is hugely disappointed as it’s perhaps his last chance at an Asian Games, but he has been battling a shoulder injury for a while now, which is why he wasn’t included in the squad at the Hong Kong Asian Sevens. He has unfortunately failed to come right in time and it looks as if he will now need surgery,” said Rees, who said Tsang’s injury also opened the door for Robertson’s return.


“It is disappointing for Hing-hung obviously, but very exciting for Keith. Keith is definitely a world-class sevens player, but it will be a real challenge for him now to come into a very settled squad and back up another world-class sevens athlete in captain Jamie Hood.”


Robertson, who is a pilot for Cathay Pacific, is a part-time athlete at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. The flyhalf’s rota of four days flying and four days off means he has been able to spend time with the team in Fo Tan in the build-up to the Games after a period out of the squad, although Rees believes he will be used sparingly.


“Jamie has led the team superbly on the Asian Sevens Series and is really coming into his own as a captain and a player. He is a key, key player for us, but we have been asking him to play nearly every minute of every match on the series so far. To be able to bring a player like Keith on in the late stages of a game will be instrumental,” Rees said.


“Hopefully Keith can make an impact coming off the bench as he has a lot of X-factor as a player, but at a minimum he will offer some very solid strength in depth for us at the No. 10 spot.”


Another returning veteran is Mark Wright, who captained the Hong Kong team to a silver-medal finish at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.  Wright, who plays professionally in Japan and is in the middle of the 15s season for his club, will join the squad eight days before the start of the tournament.


“It’s a tough ask for Mark in terms of coming into the squad fairly late in the piece, but he’s obviously a quality player and is highly professional, having plied his trade in Japan for several years now,” Rees said. “Mark has obviously been a star for us at the Hong Kong Sevens and he brings a tremendous amount of experience, as well as a grittiness over the ball which will come in handy. He is fully fit and playing regularly at the moment so he will be another solid addition.”


Hong Kong are the top seeds in Pool B ahead of China, Philippines and Pakistan.  Japan head Pool A with Malaysia, Thailand and sevens debutants Saudi Arabia while hosts South Korea top Pool C ahead of Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei and Lebanon. Rees was clear about the team’s goals in Korea.


“It isn’t gold or nothing for either the men’s or women’s teams at the Games. It’s not a must-win, but it is a must podium in its way. [HKSI coach] Gareth Baber and the team will be looking for a win and to reach the gold-medal match. But realistically all we need is a podium finish to secure what is the ultimate goal, the retention of our elite sport status at the Hong Kong Sports Institute – and we should have enough firepower to do that,” Rees said.


“We have built a lot of confidence from the Asian Sevens Series so far and are entering the tournament with a very settled group. The likely starting seven have all been vital contributors to our performance this season in Asia, where we have won the first two tournaments, including beating South Korea and Japan in the cup finals.”


The format imposes extra challenges on all teams, primarily the need to post strong points margins in the pool stages. “All of the teams will be re-seeded after the first two days so the teams with the best points differentials will be playing themselves into a better position for the last day,” Rees said.


“With the re-seeding, we must start fast and score points. We target being the first or second overall team after the first two days, although Japan seems to have the easiest pool at the moment and will likely be pushing hard for that top spot overall.”


In 2010, Hong Kong lost 28-21 to Japan in the gold medal match, becoming the first Hong Kong team sport to ever medal at an Asian Games. The side won the Asian Sevens Series in 2012 and currently lead this year’s series after winning the first two events in Hong Kong and Malaysia.


Hong Kong squad for Asian Games

KWOK Ka-chun; Jack CAPON; Max WOODWARD; Keith ROBERTSON; Michael COVERDALE; Cado LEE Ka-to; Jamie HOOD (captain); Rowan VARTY; Alexander McQUEEN; Thomas McQUEEN; Salom YIU Kam-shing; Mark WRIGHT


Source: HKRFU (; Editing by SportAsia

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